We depart Estonia in heavy fog. As the fog burns off, I see another cruise ship about 1/4 mile away in the Baltic Sea. It is the Celebrity Silhouette, which has been dogging our path..
Our first view of Saint Petersburg from the port is of a row of utilitarian concrete apartment buildings. After we make our way though Russian customs, our ride to the hotel is in a black Mercedes. It takes about 30 minutes in morning traffic. Our driver is beefy and taciturn, sort of stereotypical.
After checking in to the hotel, I navigate the streets to the Railroad station and later to the entrance of the subway where I purchase six tokens. The subways are very lovely with graceful arches and elaborate decorations..
The building below is the Russian Museum. It contains a very large collection of Russian fine art. The museum was established in 1895 by Nicolas II. The collections were expanded in 1917 from many nationalized private collections. Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich had the main building (shown below) erected as a residence in 1819-25.
This is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. On March 13, 1881, as Tsar Alexander II of Russia's carriage passed along the canal near the church, a grenade thrown by an anarchist exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar died a few hours later in the Winter Palace.
The Royal family had the church constructed on the site of Alexander's death from 1883 to 1907. During the war and the siege of Leningrad the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat or starvation . After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, causing some to call it The Church of Savior on Potatoes.
We walk back to our hotel with the help of a map of Saint Petersburg we purchased some months ago. On the way we go into the Cathedral of Transfiguration. Inside is the blood-stained sabre of Alexander II which he was wearing on the day of his assassination.